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Cozy Taberna opens its doors in downtown Salem

Written by Luis Ramirez on Apr. 7th, 2022
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Cozy Taberna opens its doors in downtown Salem
By Luis Ramirez

SALEM- Salem’s newest dining destination opened up in downtown Salem as they had their grand opening celebration the first week of March.

The Cozy Taberna (249 Liberty St NE #140, Salem) is located in the Electric Alley at the old 1859 Cider Company location.

Rex Robertson, who also owns Little Lois Café, is co-owner of the restaurant along with Michael Shinner. They’ve partnered on the project with John and Renee Gorham, who previously oversaw the Toro Bravo Inc. restaurant group that featured popular Portland restaurants Toro Bravo, Tasty n Alder, and Tasty n Daughters before disbanding the organization over an online exchange.

The owners originally had a location for the restaurant on Commercial Street but pivoted when they discovered the open space in the alley next to Rudy’s Restaurant and between Commercial and Liberty streets.

“We originally purchased a property on Commercial Street to develop the restaurant and changed our path after finding this property downtown and defining this concept of a hidden gem location that you’d find in the alley,” Robertson said. “I thought that would be something people would connect with. When you come down the alley and step in through our front door there is a bit of a wow effect and that was the goal.”

The menu is unlike anything else in Salem at the moment as it is Spanish-inspired and is meant to be a shared plate and family-style experience.

Gorum is onboard as a consultant and culinary advisor. He helped curate the menu along with executive chef Brittni Armenta.

“We connected with John Gorum and created a consulting relationship with him to bring his amazing culinary experience and leadership experience,” Robertson said. “Brittni Armenta worked with John to develop an amazing Spanish-influenced menu. That menu continues to change and develop and meet the excitement level of the customers. All those things came together uniquely over the last year.”

The restaurant is meant to be a gathering place for groups or individuals coming to dine alone and the menu features small plates like Salt Cod Fritters, Radicchio Salad (Manchego Vinaigrette, Green Olive Toast), Goat Cheese Dumplings, and Patatas Bravas.

Some of their best sellers so far have been their larger plates including the Cedar Plank Salmon, Grilled El Greco Lamb Chops, and a 32-ounce Cowboy Ribeye.
They also feature a unique and extensive dessert menu with items like Tarta de Santiago and Basque Burnt Cheesecake and their drink menu features cocktails, wine by the glass, bottle, and beer on tap.

“There are several unique dishes in our menu and in our bar that are exact recipes and implemented from Spain,” Robertson said. “The lamb chops are maybe the most phenomenal lamb chops you’ll ever taste. Our dessert offerings are a true treasure of desert levels that Salem is really enjoying. Basque Burnt cheesecake and the Torta de Santiago are both recipes from Spain. Then there’s also a Molten Lava Chocolate Cake that people enjoy sharing and experiencing them together.”

Taberna translates to “tavern” in Spanish and in Spain, it is a bar where people can eat. The owners sought to keep the restaurant very bar centric. People can sit around the kitchen and watch the chefs cook their food and they can sit at the bar and watch drinks being made.
“The way we styled our restaurant was a large bar and an open kitchen on our left side,” Robertson said. “It creates a dynamic of socialness and excitement that people immediately feel when they come in. It’s almost like you’re at a large party.”

They currently have 94 seats and plan on reducing the online reservations so that they can receive more walk-in business heading into the summer.

The restaurant will also be expanding to include a lounge on the lower level of the restaurant that’ll have an additional 42 seats that are open seating. They will have 24 beer taps and will do tastings and other events down there.

“It’s an incredibly social restaurant,” Robertson said. “The shared plate experience lends itself to much more communication around the food and instead of just for yourself, you’re ordering for the table. Even if it’s just two people, you’re able to enjoy the food together and try different things.”

Please credit Kimmy Neal – Vibrant Photo Co. in the images you use.

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